This was our second NCLA experience in Hawaii, having sailed on the Pride of Hawaii (now the Jade) back in 2007. Our first cruise was good - this one was great!
We began our journey (a celebration of my parents 50th anniversary) with a five-day beach house rental in Kihei, Maui followed by two nights at the Embassy Suites in Honolulu. The ES location is great - one block off the beach, close to shopping and restaurants - and the hotel itself is clean and comfortable. We will stay there again on our next trip to the islands!
We boarded the ship a little after noon following a short wait and did about the only thing you can do for the first two hours until your room is ready: head to the buffet. The Aloha Buffet was pretty much what I expected - crowded with a good selection, but below average food. It was the last time we dined in the buffet all week.
As for the rest of the food, my expectations were low after bland offerings on Pride of Hawaii four years ago, but to my surprise the food on Pride of American was good to very good. The Cadillac offers decent comfort food 24/7 while the two dining rooms, Liberty (dressy) and Skyline (casual) offer the same menu in very nice settings. Certain things on the menu are constant for the week - other things change daily. We did pay the upcharge one night for the Italian restaurant and it was good as well.
Our stateroom was a wheelchair accessible (for my wife) balcony cabin (10534) and we found it comfortable with just the right amount of room to move around. I did have to move the bed slightly to make room for my wife's chair to get in between the wall and the bed. The bathroom also worked well for my wife once they brought in a shower bench. Access to the balcony was smooth thanks to a ramp.
Overall access on the ship was good, except for the occasional elevator packed with people who apparently don't believe you should EVER use the stairs while on vacation! There were a few doorways on the ship that were a bit tricky because of a bit of a lip on the floor. We did learn from our last cruise and booked a room very close to the elevator, thus avoiding housekeeping carts and luggage in the hallways.
The crew and staff could not have been nicer this time. Everyone we encountered, without exception, had a smile on their face and was very helpful! We especially enjoyed Sodasi and Jasper from the Cruise Director's staff. They were a hoot on the Pub Crawl and a joy to be around at various other activities during the week. The wait staff in the Skyline always took time to chat and our room steward, Jonathon, was great and knew our names by the second day. That was a nice touch!
The onboard entertainment was very good as well. Magician Matt Macry was impressive with some great close up magic and a very enjoyable magic workshop. The Second City comedy show was also a lot of fun!
The order of stops was a bit different from four years ago: an overnight in Maui, followed by a day in Hilo, a day in Kona, and an overnight in Kauai. I liked the Pride of Hawaii order better with the Maui overnight in between the Hilo and Kona stops. Seemed to flow a little better.
In Maui we did the Road to Hana on day one and Lahaina on day two.
In Hilo we re-visited the Tsunami Museum and went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory.
We stayed on the ship in Kona because it was a tendered port and there were NO accommodations made for disabled passengers. The transfer to the tender would have been a slight challenge but the flight of stairs you had to negotiate to get there from Deck 3 made it close to impossible. It would be nice if they could come up with a better option.
In Kauai we kayaked on the Hanalei River on day one and walked over to the Marriott on day two. The Na Pali coast 'sail by' was impressive as always!
Getting off the ship in Honolulu was a breeze - very well organized!
Overall we were VERY impressed with everything about the Pride of America. My parents, who are black card Princess were pleasantly surprised as well.
Just keep in mind, the stars of this cruise are the ports. Look at the ship as your floating hotel, keep your expectations reasonable, and you'll have a great trip!